Ridesharing apps have dramatically cut revenue for public transit in the city, leaving difficult decisions for the future of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.
RTC General Manager Tina Quigley said in a Joint Meeting of the Senate and Assembly Growth and Infrastructure committees Thursday that while RTC supports ride-sharing companies offering additional services, their presence has funneled money away from Southern Nevada’s public transportation.
“There has certainly been a tremendous amount of disruption occurring,” Quigley said. Uber and Lyft “have come into Las Vegas and they certainly are leaving a mark.”
Las Vegas and other municipalities throughout the country have tried to ban ridesharing companies in the past, but have mostly given up.
Uber expanded its service into Las Vegas in October 2014. About a month later, a judge ruled that the company was prohibited from operating in Nevada.
But the Nevada Transportation Authority soon gave Uber and Lyft permission to operate in the state.
A 2017 bill designed to ensure that contractors who work for the companies obtained state business licenses, which critics said could run Uber and Lyft out of business in Nevada, died in the Senate.
On the resort corridor, in particular, there has been a dramatic decrease in revenue. Between 2016 and 2017 there was a 12 percent decrease in transit revenue on the strip. The year between 2017 to 2018 there was an additional 7 percent drop in revenue, costing RTC over $4 million.
There was a time when RTC saw a $6 million profit from public transit revenue on the resort corridor, largely driven by tourist dollars — revenue which in turn helped finance public transit throughout the city. That profit will soon be a thing of the past, Quigley said.
“This drop is going to start to have a significant effect on us,” Quigley said. “We are at a point where we are going to have to start looking at the service and what we are going to do moving forward.”
While the 2018 transit revenue currently exceeds operating costs by $7 million, over the past three years the gap between the transit operation revenue and expense has been narrowing. RTC’s budget projections show that gap will get smaller in the future, eventually leading to negative profits around the year 2023.
The new reality is a major issue for the RTC, which needs revenue to exceed expenses by $14 million in order to have enough cash for bus maintenance and replacement. At the moment RTC has no new sources of transit revenue, but is looking at plans and alternatives.
“We need to reinvent ourselves,” Quigley said. “We need to embrace technology and testing and employing new ways to provide services.”